That set up the first VanValkenburg’s big plays.
SK hadn’t played man-to-man all night, but switched into that defense for the final two minutes. Cole stepped into a passing lane and made a steal. He appeared to have a clear lane to a basket that would have cut SK’s deficit to one point.
Instead, VanValkenburg sprinted back and contested Cole’s shot on the left side of the rim. He forced a miss that Margaretville rebounded with about 1:20 left.
“I had four fouls, but I knew I had to contest it,” VanValkenburg said.
Added Marks: “It was a huge hustle play. Even though we make a mistake, he doesn’t allow the basket and it would have been a huge basket.”
On the other end, VanValkenburg beat his defender into the lane and when an SK forward came out to stop him, he shoveled a pass to Ryan Sanford, who hit a layup that made the score 45-40 with 59 seconds left.
“I penetrated and just waited for the defender to come out and dished it to Ryan,” VanValkenburg said.
When Cole misfired from the baseline with 45 seconds left and Reither hit a pair of free throws one second later, the Blue Devils had all but sealed it.
“Give Margaretville credit,” said SK coach Bob VanValkenburg, whose team lost, 47-45, to Hunter-Tannersville in last year’s final to end a streak of three straight crossover titles. “We missed a lot of layups, but they played tough defense and contested a lot of them.”
Sanford finished with 10 points for Margaretville, which is seeded second for the Section Four Class D tournament. The Blue Devils have a first-round bye and could face seventh-seeded South Kortright in a quarterfinal Feb. 23.
SK will host 10th-seeded Marathon on Tuesday.